Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Failures of Law Enforcement Agencies and County Gun Boards Don't Tarnish Michigan's CPL Law

In Michigan, "Shall Issue" with respect to the lawful carry of concealed handguns recently marked its ten year anniversary of passage. To no surprise of pro-gun advocates in our state, a slew of anti-gun articles found their way into print in several newspapers.

One such "negative" story about concealed pistol licensing (CPL) was at first glance particularly disturbing until some of the "facts" were clarified. In the story - widely printed across the state - much ink concerned itself with the alleged failures of state law enforcement agencies and County Gun Boards.

Under Michigan law, County Prosecutors are required to notify County Gun Boards of both criminal charges and criminal convictions levied against CPL-holders. When notified of these events, County Gun Boards have the necessary info to suspend or to revoke CPLs as required under the law. Apparently, there are circumstances under which the County Gun Boards don't get the info they need to do their jobs.

According to the article, "Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said prosecutors themselves don't get notice of people pleading guilty to crimes like drunken driving and so they can't go after those convicts' weapons permits."

Upon my reading of the aforementioned statement, I was confused as to how a County Prosecutor would not be aware of drunk driving charges and drunk driving convictions in his county. So, I called Forsyth and asked for a clarification.

According to a phone call conversation today I had with Forsyth, if a person is caught drunk driving by a law enforcement agency - such as the Michigan State Police - and is given only a citation there is a chance that the Prosecutor's Office will not know of it. The accused person could plead guilty to the offense without a warrant being issued and without a pre-trial conference being held.

In cases such as this, either the respective court or the law enforcement agency (e.g. the Michigan State Police) should notify the respective County Gun Board so that applicable discipline could be administered to the CPL-holder's license to conceal carry. Apparently, this is not always done. As such, an ineligible person could incorrectly still be in legal possession of a CPL.

In addition, Forsyth stated that some communities in Michigan have their own local drunk driving ordinances that are sometimes used to prosecute first time offenders. Sometimes, the respective court or the City Attorney does not provide notification of either the charge, the conviction, or both to the respective County Gun Board.

In my opinion, it would "seem" that the two aforementioned scenarios - whereby Prosecutors would be unaware of drunk driving convictions - would be relatively rare events. When asked if my hunch was correct, Forsyth told me that he couldn't confirm whether my assumption was correct. I'll accept that non-answer although I suspect that he does indeed know if those events are either rare or common occurrences.

Another failure identified and stressed in the story was that roughly half of Michigan's 83 County Gun Boards, at one time or another, failed to publish its annual statistics on crimes committed by CPL-holders.

I acknowledge and concede that statutorily defined duties - such as compiling crime data - by County Gun Boards should be carried out. However, the fact that the data compilation is not being done by some Gun Boards at some time or another does not cast a bad light on the overall oversight of the issuance of CPLs in the state.

Moreover, the lack of CPL-holder crime data does not suggest that CPL-holders are not worthy of the privelege granted to them. The only conclusion that can be made is that some County Gun Boards are not doing one of their statutorily defined duties. In fact, the article even included a relevant quote, "The records do show that only a tiny fraction of permit-holders break the law."

Furthermore, the whole point of mandating the compilation of CPL-holder crime stats anyway was to prove to anti-gun advocates that, at a minimum, the state's uniform CPL licensing requirements would not lead to higher Michigan crime rates. In fact, state of Michigan crime rates have dropped and none of the dire predictions and lies "about blood running in our streets" that anti-gun folks predicted were never realized.

In conclusion, the high level of interest generated by the anti-gun story was truly much ado about nothing. In fact, I would even argue that although it was technically accurate the results that could be inferred by it are potentionally misleading.

The story, as published, would have its readers believe that there are significantly large numbers of people with CPLs who should not have them due to certain public agencies and courts failing to do their jobs - communicating with the County Gun Boards.

I assert that the numbers of CPL-holders who have "slipped through the cracks" is a relatively small number of cases. In any case, this story should provide those agencies and courts with sufficient motivation to ensure that in the future that they will properly equip the respective County Gun Boards with the info they need.

Furthermore, the fact that some County Gun Boards have failed at some time or another to publish end of the year CPL-holder crime stats is not a fact that will impact public safety. It is a mere accounting issue that can rectified at any point in time, as long as the case files still exist.

Michigan's Concealed Pistol Law was unduly impugned by the referenced article.

What do you think?
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